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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

I94                            THE GAY GENIUS

was this type of humour that enabled Su Tungpo to be happy and con-
tented wherever he was. Later, when he was exiled outside China
where no medicine or doctor was available, he told his friends: "When
I think how many people at the capital are annually killed by doctors
I must congratulate myself."

Altogether, Su Tungpo felt that his labours were rewarded and
was happy. "I have now converted the Eastern Slope into rice fields,
and in spite of the exacting toil I find many happy moments," he wrote.
"I have a house with a fifty-foot frontage, a dozen vegetable patches
and over a hundred mulberry trees. I shall till the field while my wife
raises silkworms, and thus we shall pass happily the remainder of our
days."                                                                                              ,

Su was now independent and contented. What brings him close to
us today is his religion of kindness. The iniquitous custom of drown-
ing babies at birth in the district where he lived stirred his soul to the
depths. He wrote a letter to the chief magistrate of Wuchang which is
worth a pot of gold, not because of its style, but because of its content.
I have often wondered how Jonathan Swift could recommend babies'
flesh as delicious food for the aristocrats and a profitable plan for whole-
sale slaughter of babies, even in a spirit of bitter satire. Swift intended
this as a joke, but it was a bad joke that Su Tungpo would not under-
stand. As soon as Su heard of the practise of infanticide in the district
from a local scholar, he immediately took action by writing a letter
to the magistrate and sent a friend with it to see him personally.

"Su Shih addresses you:

"Yesterday I was at Wuchang stopping over at Wang Tienlin's
place. He told me a very touching story, and after hearing it I
could not eat, I think I can bring this to your attention, if not to
others, and am therefore dispatching this letter to you through Mr.
Wang. Other people might be too busy with their own affairs to
take the time and trouble to attend to something which is outside
their official routine.

"Tienlin said to me that in the district of Yochow and Ochow
[Wuchang], the poor farmers as a rule raise only two sons and one
daughter, and kill babies at birth beyond this number. They!
especially dislike to raise daughters, with the result that there are
more men than women and many bachelors in the country. A baby
is often killed at birth by drowning in cold water, but in order to do
this the baby's parents have to close their eyes and avert their faces
while pressing the baby down in the water until it dies after crying
a short moment. There is a man at the Shenshien village by the
of Shih Kuei whp once killed'twins. Last summer his wife